MAIMANE LEADERThe Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s main opposition party on Sunday elected Mmusi Maimane as leader, making him the first black leader of the party.


  • Maimane beat the party’s federal chairman‚ Wilmot James to the position
  • He succeeds Helen Zille, a charismatic former journalist and anti-apartheid activist who led the party for 8 years
  • Maimane, who joined the DA only in 2009 has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, two master’s degrees in Public Administration and Theology and speaks 6 languages
  • His election means that for the first time in its democratic history, South Africa has an official opposition led by a black person.



Maimane, 34, the party’s parliamentary leader, was seen as the clear favourite to succeed Zille in the election, in which 1,425 delegates from across the country voted by secret ballot.

Maimane beat the party’s federal chairman‚ 62-year-old Wilmot James‚ in what has been described as an intense leadership struggle to succeed Zille.

Helen Zille announcing the winner of the election

“Your new leader is Mmusi Maimane,” Zille announced to loud cheers at the party’s annual conference, after she opened a sealed envelope containing the election results.

Maimane succeeds Helen Zille‚ who has decided to bow out after eight years at the helm of the country’s chief opposition party.

On April 12 this year, Zille, a charismatic former journalist and anti-apartheid activist made a shock announcement that she would not seek re-election as party leader at the congress.


Victory Speech

In his speech after being elected, Maimane promised that the DA would be the next government of South Africa.

He said the DA needed to “connect with everyone” and bring about “one nation with one future”.

He promised cheering supporters that the DA would win power; No party has a divine right to rule this country,” he said, and lashed out at President Jacob Zuma over corruption allegations, saying, “Make no mistake Mr. President, you will have your day in court.”

In the wake of the fresh wave of xenophobic attacks that claimed at least seven lives, Maimane said in parliament last month that the State’s response should be “to acknowledge its own failure to create jobs and reduce poverty.”


Race question

On the issue of race‚ Maimane‚ who in the past has been accused of being a puppet of the country’s whites by members of the ruling African National Congress‚ said: “If you don’t see that I am a black man‚ then you don’t know me at all.”

Under Zille, the DA made inroads in areas long dominated by the ANC, and it is looking to grow its support in the next local government elections in 2016.

The DA boosted its share of the vote from 16.6 percent in 2009 to 22.2 percent in 2014 elections, but still struggles to present itself as a credible alternative to the ANC, which has ruled since the formal end of apartheid in 1994.

The DA has its roots in the now defunct Progressive Party, co-founded by the late anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman in 1959.


Maimane:  Profile

Mmusi Maimane is a recent member of the DA, joining in 2009

  • Born 1980, in the Soweto township of Johannesburg, where Nelson Mandela lived for many years
  • Graduated from the University of South Africa (BA Psychology), the University of the Witwatersrand (Masters in Public Administration), and the University of Wales (Masters in Theology).
    Maimane with his wife Natalie acknowledging cheers from party members

    Married to Natalie, a white woman, whom he met at church

  • Speaks six languages
  • Spends his weekends preaching in a Johannesburg church
  • Worked in business consultancy before entering politics
  • As DA parliamentary spokesman, he attacked President Zuma over his controversial Nkandla residence
  • In 2010 he applied to run as a Democratic Alliance candidate for Johannesburg City Council and also for internal election as the Democratic Alliance candidate for Mayor of Johannesburg
  • Mmusi Maimane was selected as DA National Spokesperson later in 2011, a position he held alongside his role in Johannesburg
  • At the 2012 Democratic Alliance Federal Congress, he was instead elected as Deputy Federal Chairperson, ahead of eight other candidates
  • Maimane applied to run as the Democratic Alliance candidate for Gauteng Premier in 2013. He was successful in this internal race, and stood as the Democratic Alliance candidate for Gauteng Premier during the 2014 national election


The election of Maimane means that for the first time in its democratic history South Africa has an official opposition led by a black person.

Analysts believe however that Maimane has his job cut out for him as the DA faces the daunting task of sustaining its position as the official opposition party and growing its followership.

He also needs to work hard to shake off the accusation that the DA is a “white” party, representing the interests of those who benefited from decades of apartheid.


ANC challenge

Millions of South African voters have deep rooted loyalty to the ANC – the party of liberation.

Despite increasing frustration with corruption and blatant inequality, the party still won over 62% of the vote in 2014.


Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema

Malema factor

Also, the DA faces a serious challenge from Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party.

The party has successfully established itself as an anti-establishment movement out to ensure that the nation’s wealth is equitably distributed.

The EFF’s visibility in parliament and Malema’s rising profile as the voice of the masses tends to position it as the party that could lead a successful political coup against the ruling party.

The DA however has the advantage of already controlling the Western Cape, one out of South Africa’s nine provinces, and is making significant inroads into Gauteng and the Eastern Cape Provinces. Its well structured and efficient political machinery also projects it as a competent alternative.






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